First Division - Day 17

Celta 0 - Las Palmas 1

Celta: Cavallero; Velasco, Cáceres, Berizzo, Juanfran (Jesuli 46'); Vagner, Doriva (Mostovoi 46'); Karpin, Edu (Pablo Couñago 73'), Gustavo López; McCarthy. 4-2-3-1.
Las Palmas: Nacho González; Edu Alonso, Alvaro, Schurrer, Paqui, Jarni; Jorge (Angel 46'), Josico, Pablo Lago (Jaime Molina 82'); Guayre (Eloy 73'), Oulare. 5-3-2.

Team changes: Celta: Berizzo, Juanfran, Vagner, McCarthy for Djorovic, Yago, Giovanella, Catanha / Las Palmas: Jarni, Pablo Lago, Oulare for Moreno, Samways, Orlando.

0-1. 12. Oulare. Got past Berizzo and ran on alone to score past keeper.

Celta sank deeper into trouble with their first home defeat in almost a year, and are now only three points above the drop zone after a run of eight games without a win. Manager Víctor Fernández was riding high with his side leading the table at the beginning of the season, but injuries to key players and a string of poor results has turned the fans against him. The man who only months ago was favourite to take over at Real Madrid now finds himself with his job on the line, and although club president Horacio Gómez has stated that Fernández will stay, further slip ups in their next few games could result in a change of the name on the manager's door. Fernández made four changes for this match, with new signing Berizzo making his league debut in place of the injured Djorovic, and McCarthy replacing the suspended Catanha. Juanfran came back at left back after injury, and Vagner was preferred to Giovanella despite making controversial statements about the club and his colleagues during the last few days. Mostovoi also came back to the squad after his recurring injury, although he started on the bench as a precaution.

Las Palmas were still smarting after their cup defeat at the hands of Gimnastica Torrelavega of the second division B, with the club heavily criticising referee Pérez Lasa who sent off no less than three of their players. Two of those, Olías and Cicovic, were not regular first team players, but London's own Vinny Samways is a key man in Sergio Kresic's side, and his one match suspension for insulting the referee meant that the manager had to find a replacement in the engine room position in midfield. In the end Josico moved across to take over the role, with Pablo Lago coming in to Josico's position out wide. Kresic could however count on two of his most experienced players, with Jarni and Oulare both returning after long injuries. Oulare's return was providential, and he was to score the only goal of the match early on, taking advantage of a poor back pass to Berizzo which got stuck on a rain-sodden pitch to race past the Argentinian defender and drive the ball home past Cavallero.

Once you get behind Las Palmas they are a hard team to beat, fighting tooth and nail to hang on to whatever advantage they have. Their league position has improved greatly since Kresic started to play five at the back, although their disciplinary record is amongst the worse in the league, with seven players having already seen red cards this season, including both keepers. There were another seven yellow cards for them in this game from referee Carmona Méndez, with little footbal played on a pitch in atrocious conditions. What there was came from Celta, with Velasco missing the best chance of the game on half time and Karpin crashing a shot against the post in the second half. The introduction of Mostovoi and Jesuli in the second half didn't improve matters, and Benni McCarthy, who has yet to score in the league this season, was almost invisible. In the end the fans booed Celta off the park as they drop to sixteenth in the league, and they are now looking for fresh blood to help them fight off the threat of relegation, with Argentina's Lucas Bernardi the closest to signing. Las Palmas meanwhile move up to a very respectable ninth place, level on points with sixth placed Rayo Vallecano, and they are well on line to a second season in the top flight. Who would have thought only three months ago?